Paving the way for Oman’s Vision for 2040 as directed by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos is the two-day Future Foresight Forum, which commenced at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre on Wednesday. The objective of the forum is to bring global and external insights to bear on the Omani landscape.
Three panels have been formed at the forum. Panel 1 will look at Oman’s future in geopolitics and fourth industrial revolution; panel 2: Oman’s future in energy transition, resources and environment; and panel 3: Oman’s future in society, urbanisation and governance.
His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tareq Al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture as well as the Chairman of Oman 2040 Vision Committee, said in his speech at the opening of the forum that the preparatory phase was initiated following the Royal orders issued in December 2013 to “thoroughly plan the future vision” (Oman 2040).
Working groups and committees were formed. The committees had prepared a “communication and community participation strategy” which was launched through the forum.
Sayyid Haitham said this is to effectively approach everyone regarding the vision — citizens and residents — so it can meet their needs at every location across the Sultanate.
“We recognise the importance of responding to changes taking place around us. Here, it is your role to explore the available opportunities and learn from global practices and experiences. It is a real opportunity for us to understand what the world will look like in 2040, with its ever-growing developments on one hand and its challenges, and how they can reflect on the region in general, and the Sultanate in particular.”
HH Sayyid Haitham said it is important to reiterate that the Sultanate’s drive towards achieving economic diversification, away from dependence on oil resources, imposes on the private sector and the civil society institutions new roles in size and quality to improve the status of the country. Later, he told the Observer: “It is a long shot and we are quite there. For the past three years, the expert groups and consultants have been working together. We have been looking around us and the world as a whole as well as where Oman could be in 2040. I think we are on the right path.”
When asked about the challenges, he said, “Getting there is a challenge especially when to start and how to start. I think education is the cornerstone for everything.”
Former President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, in his keynote address, pointed out the changes the world is evolving through the fourth industrial revolution.
He said the world is changing rapidly in the digital era. “Yes, industry, industrial production and sales are all undergoing a radical revolution from 3D printing to drone deliveries of retail goods, but that is but a small part of it.”
According to him, the digital era is upending power relationships, security thinking, indeed much of what we have thought of as ‘geography’.
The size of a country, its population and landmass, its natural resources matter far less than they did a decade ago. When warfare is no longer necessarily a kinetic affair, i.e., planes, ships, bombs and missiles, and distance lose some of its meaning, as does the size of your army. And adversary can incapacitate you — and you them — without really firing a shot, but rather using code, a series of digital commands that ultimately are nothing but strings of ones and zeroes.
For these reasons as well as defence, security and economic well-being, countries that have the political will to make changes will be ahead of the rest in the next several decades.
To safeguard data integrity, the primary data (healthcare records, property registers and court case records) is now on block-chain, which means these records cannot be altered.
Estonia now has established data embassies. “We maintain our national data abroad in real-time in servers that enjoy extraterritoriality under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic immunity. Our servers abroad are part of our territory and cannot be accessed by authorities of the countries where they are located,” he pointed out.
He said software is not a capital expenditure. “Software is a running cost or an operating expenditure. If you don’t invest in keeping up with the latest software, if you don’t constantly update and patch your software, you put your citizens’ data at risk, you put your society at risk. All countries as well as the private sector must start thinking in these terms.”